A wefie of DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta with a room full of the bank's Indian employees was circulated online recently to play up the issue of the concentration of foreign professionals in banks, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
It was first posted on a Facebook page last September, and had been captioned "Eye sight test: Find a Singaporean or Chinese in this DBS photo", suggesting that the bank was favouring foreigners over Singaporeans here, added PM Lee.
Describing it as "fake news", he said the picture had in fact been taken in India where the bank had opened a new office. It was taken in Mumbai in September 2017.
"The picture resurfaced recently and went viral, which just shows that during tough times, this subject is more neuralgic," said PM Lee.
"Last September was a different world. Many people took offence, got worked up, and berated DBS, flamed them."
He said: "The person who put up the post surely knew this, yet he irresponsibly misused the wefie to insinuate that DBS in Singapore was not being fair to Singaporeans."
Even then, added PM Lee, the damage was done. He noted that with the Covid-19 pandemic taking a toll on the economy, and professionals, managers, executives and technicians facing more uncertainty in their jobs, the issue of the number of foreign professionals in particular industries can be easily played up.
"We know there are some people who are stirring this up," he said.